Today is the start of Ritual Celebration Week, a time for Thetas to consider not only how our ritual services reflect our Fraternity values and vision but also how they offer guidance to further develop our Theta membership.
Many of us who have served as president of Kappa Alpha Theta can talk of challenging moments. Norma Jorgensen, who was our leader from 1968 to 1972, experienced more than a few challenging moments; in fact, she guided Theta through a challenging era. At the same time we were preparing to celebrate Theta's centennial, Norma was fighting for the Fraternity's very survival.
Because sororities had been in existence for more than 100 years, one might think we would have been an integral part of the fabric of higher education by the 1970s. Remember, though, that this was a tumultuous time. Colleges and universities were the site of protests, and sororities were seen as part of the "establishment." Chapters were closing, and many—both inside and outside our membership—questioned if we could keep going.
I knew Norma in her later years and deeply respected her stature in Theta history. She was known to be a good listener who saw all sides fairly. She traveled all over the US and Canada, listening to our collegians and alumnae, trying to save as many chapters as she could. From these experiences, she developed the idea that everyone should enter Theta fully aware of the expectations of membership. Accordingly, she wrote the Loyalty Service in 1970; it was the first piece of ritual to be written since the early 1900s. It became and remains part of the preparation for initiation.
Our ritual is a reflection of the time in which it is written; yet amazingly it also stands the test of time. While our members no longer must persevere through harsh winters without heat, running water, or electricity, the independence we learned from our earliest leaders bolsters our leading women today. When entering classrooms, we don't experience jeers like Bettie did, but we still rely on our sisters for love and support during difficult times. The protests on today's campuses may not have the same themes as they did in the 1970s, but I have faith in my sisters to represent and understand the forces of change.
Serving as Fraternity ritualist, I am charged with keeping our ritual alive. Every time I participate in an Initiation Service, I talk to our newest members about the impact Theta will have on their lives. I'm bolstered by the continuing relevance of words that were written so long ago. Thinking back on that centennial year, I marvel at how much things have changed, and yet that which we cherish remains the same.
Kappa Alpha Theta is a founding member of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and greatly values our relationships with our sister NPC groups. As NPC women, we know how important the sorority experience is, and we advocate for it every day. Our entire sorority experience is shaped by the Panhellenic sisters who stand beside us. Through good times and bad, we are all bonded by the common experience of sorority.
The sorority experience is unlike any other, and we all had different reasons for joining Kappa Alpha Theta. Some of us were legacies trying to follow in our family members' footsteps, some of us were new to the entire experience and some of us were unsure but attended recruitment anyway. Whatever your reasons for joining, your reasons for staying and becoming a leader in your chapter and the Panhellenic community are entirely different. NPC wants to recognize and celebrate these differences.
TheSororityLife.com is a website created by NPC that provides potential new members the "real deal" on sorority life. By submitting a college lifestyle profile, you will be able to showcase your sorority experience while also having an impact on future sorority women. The profile is easy to fill out and doesn't take longer than 10 minutes. This is a great way to promote Theta on an international scale.
So what are you waiting for? Inspire young women today by filling out the "My College Lifestyle" profile on TheSororityLife.com. At the end of the profile application, feel free to take a few minutes to share your story on video.
Scholarship has always been a central tenant for the members of Kappa Alpha Theta, and indeed is one of our core values. Our founders came together, in part, as a mutual support system in an incredibly arduous environment. They encouraged one another in academic pursuits and challenged one another and all future members to achieve their personal best in the classroom.
Even more than a half-century after our founding, Bettie Locke Hamilton was still stressing the importance of scholarship. In a letter sent to the Alpha Psi Chapter at Lawrence in 1926, Bettie shared a message that has been a "North Star" for Thetas over many generations "...and try above all things to keep up a high standard of Scholarship - nothing will elevate K.A.O. like wonderful Scholarship!"
How true her words were then, and they remain so today! Kappa Alpha Theta chapters enjoy remarkable success with more than one-quarter of our college chapters achieving the number-one ranking on their campus in terms of grades and more than three-quarters of our college chapters being above the all-sorority average (ASA) on their campuses. Of course, there are also many members who have been recognized for their remarkable individual achievement over the last 147 years.
Against the backdrop of our founding, many other Greek-letter organizations for women were also starting and spreading across the nation. In 1902, seven groups organized to form the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). From 1903-1951, even more Greek-letter organizations for women joined NPC, eventually totaling 26.
The Panhellenic Creed, which each member group supports, states: "We the undergraduate members of women's fraternities, stand for good scholarship, for guarding of good health, for maintenance of fine standards, and for serving, to the best of our ability, our college community."
A commitment to academic excellence for members of Kappa Alpha Theta and the other NPC groups results in success for individual members and their chapters. This, in turn, encourages all women to reach their potential both inside and outside the classroom. Intellectual development includes all cultural, practical, recreational, political and social aspects of life and is echoed in Theta's mission of offering lifelong opportunities for intellectual growth.
Please join me in celebrating the Year of Scholarship. I'm proud that Thetas are leading women in this area and have been since 1870.
Check out some of Theta's newest official jewelry! We are offering a new style of badge pendant and a new legacy dangle.
The pendant has in black enamel the words "Chapter Officer" along the sides of the kite to indicate your position as either a college or alumnae chapter officer. You can pin your badge inside the pendant to wear as a necklace. The pendant is available in small and large sizes—to accommodate small and large badges—and in gold plate, 10K, or 14K gold.
The legacy dangle, represented by connecting hearts, is a great way to symbolize your heritage within Kappa Alpha Theta. The dangle comes in gold plate, 10K, or 14K gold as well.
Please visit the official jewelry website to place your order.
High scholarship has been a core value of Kappa Alpha Theta since our founding. As some of the first women admitted to Indiana Asbury (now DePauw University), Bettie Locke, Alice Allen, Hannah Fitch, and Bettie Tipton had to prove their right to higher education. They had to excel academically, not just "get by." And—in Bettie Locke's words—they realized that they "... weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow us."
Alice Allen Brant, in particular, pushed some academic and professional boundaries. Those who knew Alice described her as determined and intellectually curious. In an era when opportunities for women were often curtailed, she became not only a teacher, but also a high school principal. In a Theta history published in 1930, Alice's brother-in-law described her educational philosophy as "innovative."
As we approach Theta's sesquicentennial in 2020, we are celebrating each of our founders and the core values she inspired. This year, we recognize Alice Allen Brant and Theta's commitment to intellectual ambition in the Year of Scholarship.
It is especially fitting that February is also the Month of the Scholar, established by the National Panhellenic Conference to promote academic achievement and reward academic excellence among all NPC member groups.
Beginning in February and continuing throughout the year, the Fraternity, Theta Foundation, and the Fraternity Housing Corporation will celebrate scholarship through our website blogs and social media. We hope you will join us as we celebrate Alice Allen Brant and all Thetas who are dedicated to learning, growing, and being a part of something larger than ourselves.
Visit our heritage website, a treasure trove of knowledge about our sesquicentennial, our founders, and our history.
"You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
What does an archivist do when she receives an incredible collection of materials related to founder Bettie Locke and her daughters, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter? She immediately makes plans to share it with everyone! With the opening of the special exhibit "Bettie Locke and Her Family: Four Generations of Thetas" which will run through April 30, 2017, I get to do just that.
Since I began to receive photographs and tintypes, clothing and accessories from the family of Carole Cones-Bradfield, great-granddaughter of Bettie Locke, I have been talking about these items with anyone who came through the archive space. I have been sharing with my coworkers here at headquarters (they have been really patient with me), Thetas who have come through headquarters on visits, and friends, and family who have asked what I have been doing lately (True confession: sometimes they didn't even have to ask.) Recently my opening line in many a conversation has been, "You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
The last few months have been filled with discoveries. Every time we open a box or sort letters still in their envelopes—most likely not opened since they were first read more than 100 years ago (See Fraternity Archivist Lisa McLaughlin's blog about some of her finds.)—I again realize the breadth and depth of this collection. Artifacts that have never been seen outside Bettie's family urge me toward research to find out more about them and how they represent the lives of American women over the last 150 years. (Wait until you see the personalized hanky of Eulalia Hamilton Hartley from 1901!)
So, to share just a few of the treasures related to the Bettie Locke family collection, I, with assistance from fellow staff members, have created a special exhibit at headquarters. Our goal is to provide a glimpse into the lives of Bettie, Edna, Eulalia, Genevieve, and Carole so that you too, can get to know these wonderful leading women. I am thrilled to share with you their lives as collegians, wives and mothers, and active community members ... all with the thread of Theta running throughout.
I encourage you to visit the exhibit in person if you can; please contact me to schedule a tour. If you can't come in person, follow along on social media throughout the run of the exhibit. Believe me: you won't believe what we have at headquarters!
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